Volleyball makes NCAA Sweet 16, falls to Juniata

The Eastern volleyball team’s outstanding season ended November 12 with a loss against Juniata in the NCAA regional championships.

Eastern won the first two games of the championships, beating Scranton and Gettysburg each in three games, but could not pull off the win against Juniata.

“It would have had to be our best game for us to beat them,” Coach Mark Birtwistle said. “We challenged them. They just made more plays than we did.”

According to first-year Kara Hildebrand, the team played good offense against Juniata. Sophomore Emma Klein led the team that match with 11 kills, and junior Chelsea Lyon displayed solid setting with 30 assists.

The highlight of the match against Juniata came in the third game when Birtwistle put injured senior Erin Meredith in to serve the game point. Meredith had suffered a season-ending torn ACL during the October 21-22 Juniata College tournament.

Meredith received an ovation from the crowd, according to Birtwistle.

“It was all I could do to hold back tears because I knew it was the last time I would serve or play for Eastern,” Meredith said.

Several members of the team were honored after the Juniata match. Among them were Birtwistle, who earned his second Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year award, Meredith, who received second team All-American for the first time in her career and Hildebrand, who received honorable mention All-American and first team all Mid-Atlantic.

“I think it was one of the best seasons we had,” Birtwistle said. “When Erin got hurt, the team could have rolled over, but they decided not to do that. That speaks a lot for the character of some of the girls on the team”

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